Artist: Faded Grey
Album: Harbor Lights
There are only two ways things truly fade. When things lose their vivid color and lustrous sheen, it’s in one of two manners. The first is tackiness—a cheaply constructed toy or poorly painted car—they fade because they were never cared for and created with the care they need to endure the hardships of life. The second is with a distinguished grace and precise intent that can only be defined as experience. This is the sort of process that defines Michigan metalcore quartet Faded Grey, and their debut full-length album, Harbor Lights. While they crafted a catchy and creative EP in 2013, Harbor Lights sees the band overcoming the hints and splashes of promise and potential last year held as they bloom into a voracious, aggressive and experienced sound that serves their name proud. By combining aspects of heavy music in such a diverse scope as to range from traditional hardcore, modern post-hardcore, riff-driven thrash metal and devilishly heavy deathcore alike, Faded Grey age from the naïve youngsters that crafted Pathfinder into talented, triumphant and tremendously dynamic juggernauts who have what it takes to make metalcore history.
Crushing, intense, lacerating and brutalizing are all exceptionally valid adjectives to describe Faded Grey’s instrumental effort on Harbor Lights. Throughout it’s entire 46-minute run time, the listener is hard-pressed to find a split-second of rest or reprieve from the band’s skin-melting musical assault. At it’s most rudimentary level, Harbor Lights is driven by the pummeling, raunchy percussion coming from drummer Alex Mitchell. Mitchell’s thirst for energetic, punchy drum patterns is insatiable, as his cantankerous, crushing candor is the highlight for many of Harbor Lights’ most intense instrumental climaxes. Even from the bouncy opening breakdown to “Akuma,” Mitchell is constantly catching the listener off-guard with off-kilter fills and out-of-the-ordinary tempo changes that keep the listener intrigued without seeming unnecessary or forced. Some of Mitchell’s greatest hits don’t come until the album has nearly run its course—referring to the utterly immense climax to “Heavy Arms,” which serves as the apex of the entirety of Mitchell’s percussive efforts, smashing the listener’s skull to bits as if his drum sticks were sledgehammers. While all sorts of aggressive adjectives serve to define Harbor Lights’ instrumentation, words like serene and subtle also come to mind. As Mitchell’s drumming is a constant source of fury and power, the fretwork of Johnny Allor and Alex Wintersteen is a diverse and awe-inspiring source of both boundless heaviness and sweet, deceptive serenity. “Tapestry” and “Say Your Sins” are two brilliant examples of Allor and Wintersteen’s championing of the chug, taking turns pulverizing the listener with leaden, dense breakdowns. However, tracks like “Heavy Arms” and “Ruined Vessels” see the duo working both with metallic, thrashing riffs and moments of sublime calm to switch things up, keeping the listener constantly engaged—even if it means that they are also constantly on the edge of their seat.
The grab-bag of brilliant, dynamic musicianship that Faded Grey’s guitarist and drummer bring to the table is righteous on its own—however, it pales in comparison to the enormous variety that vocalist Tre Turner lets loose upon the listener. In a word, Turner’s ability is monstrous—as his range covers more than just the standard “post-metalcore” harsh mid range yells and occasionally guttural growl. Rather, Turner’s tremendous talent defines Harbor Lights as the chimeric, crushing combination of heavy-weight genres that it is—and if the listener needs convincing of that, they need to look no further than the unstoppable performance Turner delivers in “Ruined Vessels.” With everything from his signature shrill yell to an unwieldy, gruesome gurgle (reminiscent more of slam-death than anything “-core”), “Ruined Vessels” is simply magnificent. Even the sing-songy portions of clean vocals that dot the track like catchy punctuation marks are gritty and real sounding, conveying not just the band’s immense talent, but their very real ability to communicate and emote to the listener—which is something that makes Turner’s vocal ability that much more incredible.
In spite of its remarkable diversity and innumerous climaxes and cool-downs, the single greatest thing about Faded Grey’s Harbor Lights is its consistency. Clocking in at just over 46 minutes, there is hardly a second of filler or wasted space to be found on Harbor Lights—as each moment is just as potent as the last. Rather than waste time with a lack-luster introductory track or taking time to really “warm up” to the listener, Faded Grey launch right at the listener’s throat with teeth bared and claws sharp, ready to inflict track after track of skin-shredding, muscle-melting insanity. From the catchy lead-in to “Tapestry,” through the peaks and valleys of “Akuma,” “Solitary Hearts” and the sheer power in the climax to “Susanoo,” Harbor Lights is memorable in it’s entirety, and keeps the listener constantly engaged. At no point will a yawn escape their mouth. True enough, the listener’s mouth will be wide open, but in a breathless, shock-and-awe-struck stupor, as every second of Harbor Lights is intense and chaotic—if it isn’t heart-rending and beautiful instead.
Make no mistake—there is nothing faded about Faded Grey’s debut full-length album. A beautiful amalgam of emotion, technicality, talent and brutality, Harbor Lights is exactly the album the listener needs to shine through the sea of nameless, faceless “-core” albums—guiding them to the home they’ve been missing all along.
For Fans Of: Adestria, The Color Morale, Sirena, Dreamer/Deceiver
By: Connor Welsh